Reagan Boggs writes songs for the soul

Posted: Thursday, April 28, 2016

BY TOM NETHERLAND SPECIAL TO THE HERALD COURIER

Pound, Virginia, embodies the gorgeous and the grit.

Generations of folks in the little mountain town seemed as if born with coal under their fingernails and heart in their soul.

Count Reagan Boggs among the hearty lot. Tear attached to her voice, Boggs looks to aim high with songs to match on April 29 at the historic Down Home in Johnson City. The show heralds the release of the singer’s latest album, the personal “Empty Glasses.”

“I tend to write personal,” said Boggs. “I’m not just writing songs to be writing songs. I’m an emotional singer. Try to be. If it doesn’t make you feel something, then what’s the point?”

Boggs sings and writes like a fine preacher preaches. Lean in and listen close. She and those songs aim to course the veins en route to the heart and soul of humanity.

“If it doesn’t hit a nerve, then why do it?” Boggs said. “It is very therapeutic. You can say things in songs and get them out of your system and go on.”

Take for instance Boggs’ prior album, 2014’s “Quicksand.” She drew a bulls-eye on topics centered on some of the darker pages of her life, particularly from a childhood that witnessed her father’s abuse of her mother.

“I feel blessed to have songs as an outlet,” Boggs said. “To be able to sing them and still feel that raw emotion of when you wrote it feels good.”

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah songs do not dance merrily from Boggs’ catalog. Whether it’s her cover of the Carter Family’s “Storms are on the Ocean” or her own “Hillbilly Highway from “Empty Glasses,” hers aren’t songs as crafted from the happy-go-lucky side of life.

“Upbeat songs are not in my wheelhouse,” Boggs said. “I like to sing fun songs, but it’s something other people do better. These absolutely are not fun songs.”

So it often goes from sources of substance. Whether it’s a child made to eat their spinach or a high school kid who’s required to read Shakespeare, benefits may not seem obvious in the moment. However, in time they may become abundantly clear.

Likewise with Boggs’ music. Some songs go down like milk that consoles, some like whiskey straight from the bottle. Heat follows. Given time and thought, warmth exudes from lyrics written for the long haul.

“There’s a softness to them,” Boggs said. “Even though the subjects may be intense, the tone on the new album is pretty much peaceful. I didn’t sing over the top. It’s about letting the songs be what they are.”

On record, in songs and throughout her career, Boggs embraces reality. She leaves mirage-chasing to those among the lost. For instance, she’s probably not bound for what amounts to today’s country music hit parade.

“I don’t need to be Shania Twain,” she said. “It’s your friends. It’s your band mates. It’s making music. That’s my goal. I want people to hear it.”

Music can serve as salve for broken hearts and splintered lives. It can patch the most beaten, scarred and scorched among us. Boggs knows. Long ago she emerged from a blackened cloud such to shine in a sun finally meant for her.

“I’ve done a lot of soul searching,” Boggs said. “Yeah, it’s music therapy. I’m convinced that music saved my life.”

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